AGRICULTURE EDUCATION AND YOUTH: THE FUTURE OF OSCEOLA COUNTY
J. Sprain, UF/IFAS Extension, Osceola County, Kissimmee, FL.
Situation: Agriculture and agribusiness contributes over $100 billion to Florida’s economy and $91 million in Osceola County (USDA Ag Census). It is the second largest industry in the state. Fourteen thousand six hundred new jobs in agriculture, science and engineering are created annually (Bureau of Labor and Statistics). Currently, there is a shortage of graduates to fill these positions (USDA Surveys). With fewer graduates going into agriculture, the long-term future of the industry in Osceola County is at risk. According to Dyer, Lacey, & Osborne, students exposed to agriculture at a young age are more likely to decide to participate in Ag Ed. Programs in the future, along with choosing a degree related to agriculture. Farm City Youth Day helps expose youth at a young age to agriculture. Eighty percent of the participants will gain knowledge about agriculture in Osceola County. Methods: A one day, four hour event was held for 4th grade youth in Osceola County as a part of 4-H School Enrichment. 865 youth and teachers learned about different pieces of agriculture that play a large role in the agricultural business in Osceola County. Participants rotated through stations in small groups. Results: Forty-three 4th grade teachers participated in Farm City Days Youth Day. Thirty-eight completed a post-event survey. Of those who completed the survey, 98% reported an increase in students’ knowledge about the agricultural industry in Osceola County. Conclusion: Youth learned about the agriculture industry in Osceola County through this experience. By exposing youth to agriculture at a young age, we are one step closer to getting more youth interested in Ag. Ed. Programs, and potentially degrees in agriculture. More work needs to be done to follow these youth though middle-school, high-school and college to see the impact that this and other early agricultural experiences have had.